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How to Cope with Stress: Parenting Stories and Survival Tips

June 23, 2022

How to Cope with Stress: Parenting Stories and Survival Tips

A parent that never gets stressed is either superhuman or lying. Nobody really advertises it, but when it comes to having kids, stress is part of the package. If you feel like you’re always tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed, remember that you’re not alone. A lot of real parenting stories give you a glimpse of how stressful childcare can be,  but once you’ve actually been there, you find out exactly how big of a deal it is.

Despite parenting stress naturally happening, that doesn't mean you can’t find ways to manage it. At the very least, there are things you can try in order to survive. Stress isn’t just something that happens in your mind. Science proves that it affects your body in multiple ways. So, dealing with it involves physical and emotional techniques as well. Read on to learn more. 

In this article, we talk about: 

 

What is parenting stress?

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, “within the family system, stress is defined as pressure or tension that leads to change.” Stress results from specific circumstances. It’s also influenced by how your family interprets a source of stress. Their past and prejudices affect the meaning they give to any stressful situation. Another factor is their available resources to deal with stress and  potential available resources.

There are three different types of stress. The first one consists of those everyday things or natural parts of life that give you pressure. For instance, having a child or moving to a new home.. The second type is primarily sudden disruptive or possibly devastating events. Examples include accidents, sudden loss, or unpredictable illnesses. The last type of stress can be described as “chronic” stressors, since they are things that happen and stress you out over an extended period of time. Wonder which one parenting stress falls under? Well, it could be all of those combined.

Caring for your own tiny human entails so many things. For starters, you have to ensure they get proper food, clothes, sleep, and shelter. Then, you have to watch out for their safety all the time. You have to secure their future, ensure that they feel love, help build up their self-esteem… The list goes on! Your child can also get sick, act out, deprive you of sleep, and unintentionally create other sources of stress. And that’s all on top of attending to your own needs as an individual. If reading that list alone doesn’t stress you out, you’re a true exception!

Society isn’t helping either. “In today’s parenting climate the bar is high,” says Susan Newman, Ph.D. in an article for Psychology Today. As a social psychologist, Newman’s specialty lies with issues affecting family life. She continues to describe a big factor in parenting stress. “Parenting has become a competitive sport with efforts directed at raising ‘star’ children who are also empathic, resilient, loving, and yes, happy. Wherever you set the bar for yourself and your children, the demands on parents can affect your stress level negatively.”

Of course, there are some parents who have it worse than others. It differs from person to person. To find out the level of your stress, you can undergo a test to discover your parenting stress index.

A stressed out mom having a migraine while her daughter and son are being rambunctious around her.

It's important to to reflect on what stresses you out so that you can better manage your life balance.

What is the parenting stress test?

Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. authored The Stress-Proof Brain and developed a guide to measure your stress level. This gauges your reactions to stress and the physical and emotional effects of parenting stress to you. Deeper into her book, she suggests ways how you can  monitor and control your stress levels.

There are other ways to measure your parenting stress. Here are some of them:

1. Perceived Stress Scale

This is similar to Dr. Greenberg's assessment questionnaire, where you rate your previous recent experiences and feelings.

Sample questions: 

  • In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?

  • In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?

  • In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?

2. The Ardell Wellness Stress Test

This one’s a more holistic assessment that incorporates spiritual, and social aspects of stress, aside from physical, mental, and emotional. You rate yourself depending on how happy or dismayed you are with certain things.

Sample questions:

  • Amount of fun experienced in last month

  • Prospects for having impact on those who know you and possibly others

  • Sense that life for you is on an upward curve, getting better and fuller all the time 

3. Stress Coping Resources Inventory

Aside from just your responses to stress, this tool lets you take stock of your resources to cope with stress. That includes your energy levels, emotional readiness, and moral support. 

Sample questions: 

  • When things are not going well, how likely are you to view the situation as being temporary rather than permanent?

  • When highly stressed, how likely are you to ask friends or relatives for help?

  • To what extent do you believe your life has purpose?

 

What’s the most stressful age of children for parents?

This is definitely a debatable subject as it varies per family. Some of our favorite parenting stories and parenting quotes for hard times touch on the nuances, whether you’re a mom of a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler, or a teenager. Here are some of the most commonly cited age periods and what makes them  stressful:

0 to 3 Months: The “Fourth” Trimester or Postpartum

The wave of emotions that come after giving birth plus the physical toll of delivery are definitely huge factors as to why this is a stressful time for parents. The fragile nature of newborns and the lack of experience for first-time moms and dads also add to the worries. It’s especially taxing if the mom develops postpartum depression (which can last longer than 3 months).

2 to 3: The Terrible Twos and Threes

Pediatrician Mary Wong, MD says, “The toddler years are a time of rapid growth — physically, mentally and socially.” Because of these changes, your child moves from reliance on you for everything to independence. This is also the time when they’ve mastered walking, running, climbing, opening drawers or jars, and more. Aside from being a stressful period, it’s also possibly the time when your home becomes the messiest! The good news is, this phase won’t last forever.

13+: The Teenage Years

At this age, your child is definitely becoming more independent–sometimes to the point of rebelling against parents. Puberty also causes their hormones to be all over the place. Not only that, they also have multiple stressors of their own, according to The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. That includes school demands and frustrations, self-esteem issues, problems with peers, and having unrealistic expectations from themselves and others. At this stage, they might also shut you out, which adds up more parenting stress.

A mom teaching her young son how to floss with a floss pick.

Daily habits may seem small and simple but be careful—stress can pile up in the long run.

How to survive the most common stressful parenting stories

Given all these things that could and would stress you out, you can almost expect a variety of effects to your mind and body. ScienceDirect cites how stress impacts your neuroscience, nutrition, and even your genes in the long run. Fortunately, there have been several studies that discovered ways to address stress effectively. See if you can relate with the common stories below and check out this advice on coping with parenting stress:

“I constantly worry about how I’m raising my child.”

Interrupt your worry cycles. Pause and reflect to assess whether what you’re thinking about is true or something you’re just assuming. Then, determine if it’s a helpful thought or a harmful one. If it’s the latter, acknowledge them for what they truly are–just thoughts of yours–and instead focus on  the possibilities. Maybe the others aren’t really judging you? Maybe your child is happy and that’s all that matters? Maybe you’re doing a good job after all?

Keep in mind that constantly succumbing to negative thoughts can eventually affect your health. This was a key finding of a study published in the National Library of Medicine. According to the research, sustained negative emotion can lead to coronary heart disease, heightened cortisol response, lowered immune reaction, and sleep problems, among others. Be gentle with yourself.

 

“My child is disappointed. Is he/she going to resent me? I need to fix this.”

Don’t overthink and don’t over-correct. You might think that when your child is frustrated, he/she might spiral into anxiety, depression, and other conditions. That isn’t always the case (although you do need to watch out for the signs, of course). Most of the time, children move on quickly from frustrations. If whatever happened is actually no big deal, don’t make it one. 

Here’s something you can try based on psychotherapy studies: set aside a 15- to 30-minute slot every day for your concerns.  As explained by Forbes.com, the study found that “scheduling time to worry can actually decrease overthinking.” Then, for the rest of your day, you can fill your time thinking about  other things.

 

“I’m so overwhelmed. I’m doing everything and failing at everything!”

Ask for help. It sounds so simple, but we know it can be tough. Sometimes, you get so caught up with things that you even hesitate to ask your partner or close family members for help. 

In some cases, you could even learn from a parenting coach or enroll in workshops. According to a study, “parenting classes can reduce your feelings of anger, guilt, and stress — particularly if your child has difficult behavior problems.”

We hope this guide was able to help you identify your own personal sources of parenting stress and practical ways to tackle them. Remember that even daily things like trying to get your child to floss can become toilsome in the long run. So, always aim to find ways to make routines and daily activities fun and fulfilling for your family!

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